From the Turpentine Creek web site:
“Today, we have very good control of our Big Cat’s breeding…. Our goal is for our Big Cats with pure genetic backgrounds to help diversify the Big Cat ‘gene pool’ around the world…”
Heather’s Ark: Big Cats
Monday February 26, 2007 11:53pm
Reporter: Heather Crawford
Posted By: Katrina Strickland
Eureka Springs – It’s touted as one of the largest big cat refuges in the world that’s open to the public and located right here in Arkansas.
Right now tigers and several other types of big cats are on the endangered species list. In the wild, they are at risk of extinction due to poaching and loss of habitat. But they also face another danger. In the United States, it is estimated that 7,000 – 10,000 are privately owned – many of which may end up needing another home.
That’s where Turpentine Creek comes in. What’s so unique about the facility is just how close the public can get to the animals.
Just outside of Eureka Springs more than 100 abused, abandoned, or unwanted big cats have been taken in. Cats like Kenny, an inbred, white tiger who was rescued from a breeder in Bentonville.
They live at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a USDA licensed facility, in the Ozark Mountains. When you visit the refuge, you can get within five feet of most of the animals.
Tanya Smith says her family bought the land, which spreads across 450 acres, for one reason.
(Tanya Smith, Turpentine Creek Founder and President) “Our main mission is just to rescue. Just to keep these endangered species and animals from being destroyed. We don’t want to see all these animals just put to sleep so we bring them in and save their lives and do the best we can to give them the best life they can have.”
If it wasn’t for the refuge, Smith says about 95 percent of the animals would likely have been put to sleep. Her ultimate goal is to build enough natural habitat enclosures so they can all have room to roam outside the confines of a cage.
Right now 17 habitats have been built and more are planned.
(Smith) “See, I feel like they’re just grateful we brought them in and take care of them.”
The animals at Turpentine Creek have been rescued form 17 different states. Most of them were kept as household pets but they became too big and too dangerous for their owners to handle.
(Smith) “They are wild animals. It’s very important people understand that. It’s real hard, I know for people whenever they see these cute little babies, only about two pounds when they’re born. Then they grow, in a year you have a 150 pound cat and then by the time they’re 5 years old a Siberian Tiger can be 700 or 800 pounds.”
At Turpentine Creek, the animals are not bred, bought, or sold. In addition to lions, tigers, cougars, and other exotic felines, there are also a handful of black bears, and even a monkey.
(Smith) “There are too many animals out there right now that need homes and if it wasn’t for people buying them as pets then we wouldn’t need to be here. That would be the ultimate goal, for there not to be a need. Unfortunately there is.”
The need is so great that last year alone more than 100 big cats had to be turned away because there was simply no more room. The animals that come here, come to stay.
(Smith) “We hate to have to turn an animal away but we do understand with our budget, and we are non-profit, that if we’re not able to support that animal whenever it gets here than we’re jeopardizing all the animals we’ve already saved.”
Turpentine Creek is open to the public almost every day of the year. And if you plan on staying overnight, you can rent a room with big cats right outside the window. For more information on the refuge, look under newslinks.
Also, if you have any animal story ideas, email Heather Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.